For maintaining good eye health, vitamin A is an important nutrient. It was found that vitamin A deficiency is the single greatest preventable cause of childhood blindness.
People most at risk are children between six months to six years, pregnant women, and lactating women.
This is because vitamin A maintains healthy cells in various structures of the eye and is required for converting light into nerve signals in the part of the eye called the retina. When vitamin A is not available to the body, gradual changes begin to affect the eye.
- The first sign of a problem is when a child or a pregnant or lactating woman finds it difficult to adjust to seeing in the dark. This condition is called night blindness.
- Bitot Spots: These are whitish cheese-like tissue spots that develop around the eye ball, causing severe dryness in the eyes.
- Blindness: Once the dry eyes set in, the eye becomes very sensitive. The eyelids become swollen and sticky. This eventually leads to irreversible blindness.
To successfully reduce vitamin A deficiency, adequate intake of vitamin A must be ensured.
- Promotion of vitamin A-rich diets: Animal sources are Liver, Fish liver oil, Egg yolk, Milk and milk products and plant sources like Dark green leaves ,Yellow and orange vegetables (like carrot, sweet potatoes, yellow yam), Yellow and orange fruits (like papaya, mangoes) and Red palm oil
- Food fortification: Vitamin A added to foods like oil, sugar, milk and flour helps to provide vitamin A when the regular diet does not contain the vitamin in sufficient amounts.
- Vitamin A supplementation: It involves intake of high doses of Vitamin A drops or syrup in children between 6 months and 6 years, twice yearly.
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